Lincoln - As the Nebraska football team continues preparing for its first ranked opponent of the season on Wednesday, Huskers.com offers fans some insight into Saturday's opponent, 16th-ranked UCLA.
Speaking to the media at his weekly Monday press conference, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini praised the Bruins and second-year quarterback Brett Hundley.
"They are a good football team," Pelini said of a 1-0 UCLA squad. "They are well-coached. They are sound in what they do. It will be a heckuva challenge for us."
In regards to Hundley, Pelini said the sophomore poses plenty of challenges for a defense.
"He's a good football player," Pelini said. "He's smart. He understands their offense. He's athletic. I think he has a really firm handle on what they do and why they do it. He's a playmaker. He's a good football player."
While UCLA has built plenty of positives under second-year Head Coach Jim Mora, the Bruins are also dealing with the tragic loss of redshirt freshman wide receiver Jordan Pasquale, who passed away in his hometown of San Clemente, Calif., on Sunday. Before looking ahead to Saturday's top-25 matchup Pelini and the Nebraska Athletic Department acknowledged UCLA's loss and offered their condolences.
"I speak for everybody associated with the University of Nebraska in offering our condolences to Nick Pasquale and his family (as well as) UCLA and everyone associated with their program dealing with the tragedy that they are dealing with," Pelini said. "That’s a lot bigger than any football game.
"The thoughts and prayers of everyone associated with Nebraska are with Nick, Nick’s family, Coach Mora, the football team and everyone associated with UCLA in getting through this because obviously this has got to be a very difficult time for them.”
Both Nebraska and UCLA plan to honor Pasquale on Saturday, as the teams sqaure off at 11 a.m. on a nationally televised contest on ABC.
UCLA was off last weekend after defeating Nevada, 58-20, in its season opener on Aug. 31. The Bruins began the year ranked 21st in the Associated Press preseason top 25, and UCLA enters today’s game with a No. 16 ranking.
The Bruins put together an impressive performance in their only game of the year, totaling more than 300 yards rushing and passing. Overall, UCLA gained 647 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per play. The Bruins scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions to open the second half and scored on eight of their 12 possessions overall. UCLA never punted against Nevada, with its four non-scoring drives including a missed field goal, two kneel downs at the end of the half and a late fourth-quarter fumble.
Brett Hundley completed 22-of-33 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 65 yards on the ground and two more rushing touchdowns. Jordon James added 155 yards on the ground, while 12 Bruins caught at least one pass.
Defensively, the Bruins held a solid Nevada offense to 353 total yards and 4.1 yards per play. After scoring on three of their five first-half possessions, the Wolfpack scored only once on six second-half possessions. UCLA recorded 11 tackles-for-loss against Nevada and broke up six passes. Eric Kendricks led UCLA with 11 tackles, while Keenan Graham recorded 2.0 sacks.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with UCLA, 6-5, but the Bruins handed the Huskers a 36-30 loss in Los Angeles last season. The Huskers are ranked entering a matchup with UCLA for 10th consecutive meeting dating back to 1972. Both teams are ranked at game time for the first time since 1994 and for only the fifth time in series history. Nebraska owns a 4-1 record against UCLA at Memorial Stadium and has won four straight in Lincoln.
In last year’s meeting, UCLA totaled 653 yards of offense, including 344 rushing yards. Nebraska ran for 260 yards, including a career-long 92-yard touchdown run by Taylor Martinez, the longest rush by a quarterback in Big Ten history.
UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora
Jim Mora is in his second season at UCLA, where he owns a 10-5 record. The Bruins went 9-5 in 2012 - including a victory over Nebraska - and a trip to the Holiday Bowl.
A former NFL head coach, Mora’s only experience in the college game prior to taking the UCLA job was as a graduate assistant at Washington, his alma mater, in 1984. Mora coached 25 seasons in the NFL ranks from 1985 to 2009 before spending the 2010 and 2011 seasons as an analyst and contributor for the NFL Network and FOX.
In his 25 seasons in the NFL, Mora coached at five stops, including two stints as a head coach. He worked with the San Diego Chargers’ defense from 1985 to 1991 and served as the New Orleans’ Saints secondary coach from 1992 to 1996. Mora held the same title for the San Francisco 49ers in 1997 and 1998, before being promoted to defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2003.
Mora’s first head coaching job came with the Atlanta Falcons from 2004 to 2006, when he guided the Falcons to an 11-5 record and an NFC South title in his first season. For his efforts, Mora was named NFC Coach of the Year after the Falcons advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
Mora finished with a 26-22 record in Atlanta, before becoming the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, Mora took over for Mike Holmgren and led the Seahawks to a 5-11 record. Overall, Mora owned a 31-33 record in four seasons as an NFL head coach.